Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Gumbo's Story: For Fellow Rescue Animals Everywhere

So, those of you who know me, or have been friends with me on "the Facebook" for more than five minutes know that I LOVE my animals.  Chopper and Gumbo are the only children Matt and I have, so just about every other post or picture is of one or the both of them.  I've written Chopper's story, and this week, after recent events in my hometown, I decided to write Gumbo's story.

Gumbo is not a shelter dog.  Thank goodness, he never had to endure life in a shelter, but he is a rescue dog.  He was found under a porch, with his mother, in Mid-Town Mobile in October of 2011.  He was the ONLY puppy in his litter to survive.  He and Pebbles (his mother) were huddled together, trying to stay dry and warm, starving, and barely clinging to life when he was picked up by ARF (Animal Rescue Foundation).
When picked  up, he was totally bald, suffering from a bad case of Demodectic Mange.  The poor baby had blisters and scabs and was scratching himself bloody.  Of course, ARF gave him all necessary medical treatments and cleared the mange up (or so we thought).  But life in the ARFanage wasn't all peachy keen.  Its crowded, and illness and disease are passed back and forth from kennel to kennel.  But there is no threat of being terminated and the staff is wonderful.

I had wanted to add a dog to our family for a while.  I just knew that the perfect dog for me was a Doberman.  They are majestic and loyal, sweet and loving, intimidating as hell, and expensive.  I even contacted a breeder and was put on a waiting list...but then something compelled me to look at the local shelters and rescue groups. (Not to mention, a co-worker kept sending me listings of animals up for adoption.)

I found Gumbo on  He was described as a four month old boxer/lab mix.  I have experience with Boxers and having owned a lab as a kid, I thought I knew what I was getting into.  I was so wrong, but I do not regret it for one minute.
Baby Gumbo's Adoption Picture 

He still makes this same face...

This mange infested (we're clear now! yay!), chew-a-holic, who has a fascination with pillow stuffing, and overly expensive flip-flops has become a HUGE part of our lives.  He greets me with enthusiastic kisses every morning, he watches me pull out of the drive-way and stands there until I've driven away and can't see him anymore, and he is absolutely on Cloud 9 when I come home from the office.  He wants to eat what I eat, watch TV with me, run and walk with me, he wants to dance with me, he even sings for me.  And when Matt is home, Gumbo is his biggest fan!  You've never seen anything as adorable as the two of them playing chase in the back yard. Those moments absolutely melt my heart.

But it wasn't automatically easy.  The first few days home from the ARFanage were tough.  Gumbo was not house trained, he was not leash or kennel trained, and he was very people shy.  It took us a long time to get where we are today.  But I didn't give up on him, and he hasn't given up on me yet.  

I'll try to get to the point now:

Earlier this week, I saw a Facebook post about a "holding facility" in my home town of Ellisville, MS.  The conditions in the facility were described as filthy, unsanitary, with rusty kennels, no windows and no air conditioning.  Folks, no air and no windows in south Mississippi?  And on top of that, the building was just a place for the city to dump dogs for 5 days before they were taken to a veterinary office to be either adopted out or euthanized. There wasn't even someone with them during they day. Now, let me preface this by saying that I understand it is the State of Mississippi that requires animals to be held for a certain time period before any action is taken.  I do understand why (quarantine, owner claims, etc.).  What I do not understand is why the City of Ellisville thought that the facility pictured below was A-OK. 

Photo Credit: Pit Bulls R Us 
Thankfully, the City of Ellisville was bombarded with complaints and concerns from animal advocates from within the city and elsewhere, and now, the facility has been demolished and looks like this:

Photo Credit: Pit Bulls R Us.  Bouquets Unlimited in Ellisville provided the wreath to honor all animals who had been through this "facility."  

Now, I'm stepping up on my soapbox:

I am no dummy.  I know that laws must be followed and budgets are tight, but let's use our common sense here.  Would you leave your kid in this building? I didn't think so.  Would you stay in this building with no ventilation, no windows to open, and no air-conditioning?  I didn't think so.  So, why in the world would anyone think it was acceptable to leave an animal in this building?  (For a minimum of 5 days, mind you.)

Call me an animal freak.  Call me a hippy.  Call me a liberal.  If because I feel that animals should be treated in a humane fashion, makes me all of those things, then I must be all of those things.  

I had nightmares about this building.  Take a look at Gumbo's picture.  What kind of dog does he look like to you?  If he looks like a Pit Bull, does that make him subject to spending time in this "facility?"  Because of a few stereotypes and ignorant BSL laws, if he had been picked up in Ellisville, MS, he would have spent time in that pitiful excuse of a shelter.  That makes me mad

We're not even remotely sure that Gumbo has Pit Bull genes.  What we do know is that he has some features that are Pit-like.  And what we are positively sure of is this: If we invite you into our home, or meet you while walking around the neighborhood, we will introduce you to Gumbo, and you will be fine.  He will let you pet him, he will give you kisses, and he will beg you for a bite of any delicious snack you may have.

However, if you enter our home or come onto our property uninvited, or if you approach Matt or myself in a threatening way while walking in the neighborhood, Gumbo will not be OK with you.  He will growl at you and bark at you, and do what he is meant to do, protect his family.  He will start with intimidation tactics, and if necessary, he will use his animal instincts.  And that, my friends, is not a Pit Bull characteristic.  That is a DOG characteristic.  I have a very good friend that is mother to a miniature Poodle/Dachshund mix, and he is just as ferocious as Gumbo. 

This is as ferocious as it gets.  In his Valentine's tie, begging for a cookie.

This is the part where I urge you to do something:

  • First, I want to say a BIG THANK YOU to all of the people who called for the City of Ellisville to make changes to their facility.  Please continue to advocate for these animals who can't speak for themselves.
  • Second, I want to tell those of you who are thinking of getting a new pet to look at your local shelters and rescue agencies first.  Even if you want a pure bred or "designer" dog, there are rescue groups who specialize in specific breeds.  (Gulf Coast Doberman Rescue, Standard Poodle Rescue,  Pembroke Corgi Rescue, just to name a few...)
  • Third, please for goodness sake, have your fur baby spayed or neutered.  My step-mom and I refer to this as having them "thrown in neutral."  Over population is a problem, please don't contribute to it!  
  • Fourth, if you're a "back yard breeder," please stop!  I see so many of my Facebook friends post "Lola Bell is having puppies! $100 for your choice of male or female!"  Then a few weeks later, not all of Lola Bell's puppies have found homes and the post changes to "free to a good home."  Anyone who is willing to give that puppy a good home, is willing to pay for that puppy.  Otherwise, consider yourself a contributing factor to over crowded shelters the first time Lola Bell's offspring poops on the living room rug in her "good home."  
  • Fifth, if you are considering adopting a new pet, please understand that puppies and kittens are hard work.  When Gumbo first came home, I cleaned more poop and pee than I care to even remember.  If you're not OK with that, consider a senior pet.  Many senior pets are just waiting for a warm bed and a full belly.  They will be forever grateful to have a forever home, and you won't have to worry about putting bubble wrap on the furniture legs to protect them from razor sharp puppy teeth.  Its a win-win situation. 

Here's where I step off the soapbox and leave you with a heart-warming sentiment:

Animals, no matter how intelligent or well-trained, cannot tell us how they feel or what they need.  So put yourself in their place.

What do you want in life?  Someone to love, a safe place to live, and food in your stomach.  That's all they want, too.  

Goliath Beaujolais (Gumbo)


  1. So beautifully written I cried! Thank you for loving animals and for speaking up for them!